Maybe It's because I'm a Londoner

Our Head of Group Insight Andrew Tenzer discusses how brands need to relate to consumers outside of the London bubble 

If you’re a Londoner, it can be hard to believe that not everyone aspires to be one. A vibrant, thriving, multicultural city with something for everyone. We’re proud to be Londoners. What we seem to have forgotten, however, is that others feel the same about where they live. In fact, 74% of the UK say their local area is very important to their identity, and this is a deep rooted, emotional connection.

The long-held myth that non-Londoners aspire to be like us, is being exposed. In a survey of 1,200 UK adults, 75% of non-Londoners rate themselves as having different values to the average Londoner. If they had to move area, only one in ten would consider the capital as their top destination. Yet it seems this assumption is hard to shake off. Politicians have been dealing with the fall-out from Brexit, but the advertising and marketing industry continue to think all is rosy in the garden. We perceive our industry to be moving at a ferocious rate, but while we look inwards, the rest of the country is changing, and we’re lagging behind; clinging to an unrealistic view of the world we live in.

The Nike advert is an extreme example which helps illustrate the wider point. Last year, our When Trust Falls Down study revealed anti-establishment feeling running high, and a crisis in trust amongst all major institutions. The problem for brands is they aren’t immune from wider societal shifts. The research highlighted the issue brands are facing to win back the trust of the public. Being seen as ‘Establishment’ and part of the small metropolitan elite; brands are losing relevance, particularly with consumers outside London.

The problem is getting worse. The number of consumers saying most advertising doesn’t portray the lives of people in their local area has increased significantly year on year, from 56% in 2016 to 61% in 2017. Only 10% of the UK say the latest technology developments are personally important, and people outside London are 18% less likely than people in London to say innovation is an essential trait for a brand to be personally relevant. This points to an industry continuing to obsess with what’s relevant to us, rather than what’s relevant to the people we’re trying to reach.

It’s my belief that when it comes to brand relevance, we are asking the wrong questions. We’re guilty of focusing too heavily on the individual, and failing to tap into this emerging local mind-set. At Trinity Mirror, we’ve reframed these questions to understand how brands perform in people’s local area. The 2018 brand relevance highlights brands who are lacking resonance outside London. We surveyed 2,000 adults in the UK, asking questions about 170 leading consumer brands. A ‘relevance’ score is then calculated indicating the gap between perceptions of the brand in and outside London. The results are alarming, 134 or the 170 brands have a negative relevance score, which implies these brands have greater relevance inside London.

These results show the scale of the problem facing the industry. Based on an analysis of the 170 brands, people outside London are:

  • 10% more likely to say that brands are out of touch with people in their local area
  • 18% more likely to say that brands don’t aim its advertising at people in their local area
  • 22% more likely than people living in London to say brands don’t understand people in their local area.

As marketers we live and breathe brands, but we need some perspective. The reality is that there is a widespread apathy towards them. Outside London, 95 of the 170 brands scored 60% or more for not caring if the brand exists – it’s just 45 for Londoners. And what’s more, this disconnect spans all ages and social class.

It’s not just hearsay, the evidence is clear – brands and advertising are too London centric. It’s time to stop arrogantly assuming people outside London see the world as we do. George Lakoff, the UC Berkley Professor of Linguistics once wrote “Frames are mental structures that shape the way we the see world. If a strongly held frame doesn’t fit the facts, the facts will be ignored and the frame will be kept”.

Let’s not ignore the facts. Let’s not carry on as before. Let’s address this issue head on.




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